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Wednesday, 13 May, 1998, 06:36 GMT 07:36 UK
Drivers bypass car sharing schemes
DoT survey (in graph form)
A Department of Transport survey in 1995 found more people were driving unaccompanied
Car sharing is being introduced in the British city of Leeds this week. But if experiences in other cities are anything to go by, Leeds may have little luck with its new green plan.

Throughout the world, drivers unashamedly flout air pollution and car sharing schemes. In the United States, "high occupancy vehicle (HOV)" lanes, which like the Leeds' plan require that cars have at least one passenger, have been the source of hysterical stories.

One woman tricked the police for more than a year by carrying a shop window dummy in the back seat.

Then there was the Los Angeles undertaker who was prosecuted for driving his hearse on an HOV lane with not passengers. He appealed against his conviction on the grounds that he was carrying a body in a coffin.

He lost. But a pregnant woman won her appeal after a California judge was forced to admit that her unborn baby was technically a "human being", and therefore a passenger in her car.

Traffic jam
Roads across the world are clogged with commuters
In Mexico City, one of the most polluted cities in the world, drivers have to choose one day of the week on which they will not use their car.

The scheme is monitored ruthlessly by the traffic police who have the power to impound cars whose drivers flout the rule.

But many wealthy Mexico City residents have simply decided to buy a second car to get around the law. And with pollution levels showing no signs of abating, there has been much debate about whether the project is working.

Alternate day drivers

Ten years ago, notoriously polluted Athens introduced a system where cars with number plates ending in odd and even numbers would be allowed onto the roads on alternate days.

As usual, cunning drivers tried to get round it by buying a second car so they could drive on both days.

But George Hatzis, a spokesman for the Greek embassy in London, says that hasn't worked for most people.

"You cannot choose your number plate. They are assigned by the traffic police so you might end up with two even numbered plates. Only the wealthiest people can keep on buying cars until they get the plate they want."

Mr Hatzis says the police stop and fine those driving with the wrong plates on the wrong day. He added that now most people have accepted the idea and pollution levels have gone down.

Confidence in motorists

Officials in Leeds are confident motorists will not flout the law.

Leeds City Council spokesman John Donegan says: "The lane will be patrolled by police on motorbikes and there are laybys where they can pull over errant drivers.

"We're sure the sight of people being issued with fixed penalty notices will serve as a salutory reminder to those who are tempted."

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